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Walt Whitman John Bailey

Walt Whitman

John Bailey

Published March 1st 2007
ISBN : 9781406775129
Paperback
228 pages
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 About the Book 

J6itQlisb Men of letters EDITED BY J. C. SQUIRE WALT WHITMAN WALT WHITMAN BY JOHN BAILEY MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED ST. MARTINS STREET, LONDON 1926 CONTENTS CHAPTER I PAGE INTRODUCTORY 3 CHAPTER II THE LIFE OF WHITMAN . . . . . . 7 CHAPTER IIIMoreJ6itQlisb Men of letters EDITED BY J. C. SQUIRE WALT WHITMAN WALT WHITMAN BY JOHN BAILEY MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED ST. MARTINS STREET, LONDON 1926 CONTENTS CHAPTER I PAGE INTRODUCTORY 3 CHAPTER II THE LIFE OF WHITMAN . . . . . . 7 CHAPTER III CHARACTERISTICS AND COMPARISONS ... 49 CHAPTER IV WHITMANS LANGUAGE AND METRE .... 82 CHAPTER V A WALK THROUGH LEAVES OF GRASS . . . 130 CHAPTER VI THE ULTIMATE REMAINDER 193 INDEX ... 215 AN ORSON OF THE MUSE Her son, albeit the Muses livery And measured courtly paces rouse his taunts, Naked and hairy in his savage haunts, To Nature only will he bend the knee Spouting the founts of her distillery Like rough rock-sources and his woes and wants Being Natures, civil limitation daunts His utterance never the nymphs blush, not he. Him, when he blows of Earth, and Man, and Fate, The Muse will hearken to with graver ear Than many of her train can waken him Would fain have taught what fruitful things and dear Must sink beneath the tidewaves, of their weight, If in no vessel built for sea they swim. GEORGE MEREDITH CHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY MORE than a generation has passed since Walt Whitman died. The time is come when more and more the attempt will be made, and may hopefully be made, to estimate his permanent place among the writers of the English language. I do not say, I do not think, that the time has yet come for registering a verdict that can confidently expect to stand without fearing serious modification in the future. It will come, no doubt. To suppose that such verdicts are not attained or attain able is only a piece of the curious intellectual anarchy of our time. The truth is that literary judgements have proved themselves at least as stable asthose of history or politics, philosophy or science. No one who is capable of forming an opinion on such questions supposes that there can ever again be any serious question about the poetic rank of Aeschylus or Dante or Shakespeare or Milton. Indeed such doubts as have arisen in the past have commonly been due either to ignorance of the poets language, as in the case of Shakespeare, or to reactions and prejudices unconnected with literature, as in the case of Dante. In each case the literary judgement formed immediately or within - a generation by those best competent to 35 B 2 WALT WHITMAN CHAP. decide has finally triumphed. Criticism may indeed continue the work of elucidation, may bring out new details of judgement or modify old ones . But the broad facts and the main impression have long ago been settled and nothing alters about these fixed stars of the literary firmament except their new relation to each new and differing generation of civilised men. Whit man has certainly not yet reached this position. And it is one of the results of that lack of any literary education which was in part his strength and in part his weakness that he never understood that any one had, andfconstantly supposed that the pioneers and journalists of the New World could revise these ancient and settled verdicts by their natural genius unassisted by any knowledge of the long history either of art or of any other manifestation of human Hfe. That is not so. Genius is much greater than knowledge, but it can seldom be a substitute for it. Whitman, himself a man of genius, was always blundering ludicrously when he pronounced his confident judgements on great writers for judging whom he in fact possessed nomaterials at all. Whei ne writes of Goethe that he passes with the general crowd upon whom the American glance descends with indifference, he is of course merely making himself ridiculoujj Neither he, nor the American glance, nor incfeed any other glance English, French, Italian, or even German can see Goethe. He takes a good deal of hard looking at and not merely looking at. The eyes that are to see the whole of such men as Goethe and Milton must bring a good deal with them or their looking will be wholly or partly in vain...